Monday, May 12, 2014

Hawaii’s Amazing Coconut

Hawaii Coconuts
We have been researching super-foods recently and were surprised by the many unique benefits of coconut oil.  Coconut oil is a Medium Chain Fatty Acid (MCFA) as compared to the majority of other dietary fats and oils which are primarily Long Chain Fatty Acids.  The coconut, called ‘niu’ in Hawaiian, and its oil, have been a part of people’s diet in Hawaii and elsewhere in the world for thousands of years.    Here are five amazing health benefits of coconut oil that has made it a welcome addition to our diet in Hawaii.

1) Coconut oil is better for cooking.  Most oils react with oxygen when heated and break down into substances that cause inflammation and mutation in cells.  The fatty acid content of coconut oil is resistant to heat and oxidization which makes it a great choice for cooking.

2) Coconut oil is easily digested and used by the body.  The molecules in coconut oil are smaller than most other oils and fats so it takes less energy and fewer enzymes for your body to absorb and get energy.  Coconut oil is broken down almost immediately by enzymes in the saliva and gastric juices.  Fat-digesting enzymes from the pancreas and gall bladder are not needed for coconut oil.

3)  Coconut oil is converted into energy and not body fat.  Coconut oil is absorbed from the intestines and sent directly to the liver where it is burned as fuel.  Other fats require enzymes to be digested and are packaged into bundles of fats and proteins called lipoproteins. Cholesterol, saturated fat, monounsaturated fats, and polyunsaturated fats are packaged together and circulated through the body in the bloodstream.  After the fatty components have been distributed, the lipoproteins arrive in the liver where they are repackaged or stored as fat in the adipose tissue.  Medium-chain fatty acids, like coconut oil, are not packaged into lipoproteins but go directly to the liver where they are immediately converted into energy.

4) Coconut oil stabilizes insulin levels and boosts metabolic rate.  Unlike other fats that require insulin to process, coconut oil regulates blood sugar, slows the digestive process, and lowers the overall glycemic index of a meal. Coconut oil causes carbohydrates in a meal to be broken down into glucose more slowly, so blood sugar levels remain steady long after the meal.  We are enjoying the fact that adding coconut oil to our meals boosts our metabolic rate and allows us to go hours between meals without being distracted by hunger. Increased metabolism has the benefits of protecting from illness, speeding healing, and improving the immune system.  

5) Coconut oil is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral. Lauric acid is the primary saturated fatty acid found in coconut oil, along with capric acid and caprylic acid.  Pure coconut oil contains about 50% lauric acid.  Lauric acid is converted into Monolaurin in the body, which has anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-parasitic, and anti-fungal properties by disrupting the lipid membranes in organisms like fungus, bacteria, and viruses.  The compound Monolaurin is a treatment for fungal infections and also targets bacterial infections as well as fat-coated viruses.  Breast milk is the only other natural source that contains such high concentration of lauric acid.  Another component of coconut oil, Caprylic Acid, kills Candida cells and restores stomach acidity to normal levels. 

The anti-bacterial benefit of coconut oil has made it popular for use as an  “oil pull” to combat bacteria in the mouth. The 2 staphylococcus bacteria  (which cause tarter) and 6 streptococcus bacteria (which cause cavities) and 26 other unhealthy bacteria that live in the mouth bind to coconut oil.  By swishing coconut oil around in your mouth for 5 to 15 minutes, then spitting it out, the bacteria is “pulled” and oral health improved.  Swishing coconut oil kills the bacteria by binding to them. Other oils work as well, but coconut oil seems to work the best.

New coconut grove in Puna

Since reading about the amazing health benefits of coconut in David Wolfe’s Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future and Dr. Bruce Fife’s books The Coconut Oil Miracle and Oil Pulling Therapy: Detoxifying and Healing the Body Through Oral Cleansing, we switched to using coconut oil in all our cooking.  We consider this healthy tropical oil another benefit of living in Hawaii.


Connie said... reading your blog!

Second...coconut oil is great for hair, too! Rub it in and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour, then shampoo and condition as usual. I also use it as a facial cleanser and moisturizer. Works great for sunburns, too!

Alix lion said...

That's really unique sharing Connie! I'm also in search of good tips that I use for my hair's growth. Your post really helps full for me and give me an idea to collect new tips from Hawaii's residents because I'm going to plan hawaii bus tours for the upcoming weekend. Glad to hear a lot from you soon. Keep on sharing!

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